Group Meeting – 22nd February 2019

Andrew Cleave MBE is a Hampshire based natural historian with a lifelong passion for wildlife and has written over 20 books on natural history and co-authored many more. Andrew was given a warm welcome to Ferring Conservation Group’s February meeting and gave a fascinating, illustrated lecture entitled ‘Life between the Tides’ to this well attended event. Andrew explained how fortunate we are in Britain to have an opportunity to see and study many species of sea life exposed on our beaches at low tide. Andrew demonstrated how privileged we are to have access through rock pools and rocky shorelines to observe sea creatures and learn about their habitat and behaviour, illustrated with many superb photographs that he had taken over the years. A number of these photographs were used in the Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife.

The rise and fall of the tide is due to lunar influences but not all seas are subject to these stimuli. Neither the Mediterranean nor Baltic seas are tidal so therefore they keep their secrets hidden, and it is only the intrepid diver or adventurous snorkeler that is privy to this captivating world.

The sea life found in rock pools at low tide must be tough and adaptable to the force of the waves and the changes in temperature as the water remaining in the pools will heat up at low tide. Seaweeds are a good example of this as these non-flowering plants glue themselves to rocks and can withstand the tidal forces. The Common Blenny is a small fish that is abundant in rocky coastal inshore waters around the UK (sometimes referred to as the Shanny), and being out of water is not a problem provided the environment is damp and moist. The Greenleaf worm, Sea Slugs and Periwinkles can all live out of water for a length of time and the round shell of the Flat Periwinkle enables these adaptable creatures to roll around in seawater and not get damaged. The many species of crab are always an interesting discovery as they are found in numerous shapes and sizes and can be easily found hiding under rocks and will scurry quickly away if disturbed. Interestingly creatures such as the Limpet have teeth that consist of the strongest biological material ever tested and they use these to cling on to a rock at low tide. Our glimpse into this captivating world is available to all those that are interested to take a look and marvel at what ‘Life between the Tides’ can reveal.

Tricia Hall presented her popular Nature Notes after the usual break for tea and advised the audience that Tawny Owls had been heard in several areas of the village and encouraged members to record any sightings of these birds on the RSPB website. Tricia reported that several signs of spring were evident with Celandines, Primroses, Snowdrops, Rosemary and White Heather covered in Honey Bees feeding on nectar had been spotted, as well as frog spawn in ponds and the lagoons near the Rife. Many birds had been heard singing in the area including Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Great Tits and Chaffinches as well as signs of birds starting to nest.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller updated the Group regarding the latest planning news. Ed advised the audience that the recent planning application for two houses in the back garden of 21, Ocean Drive had been refused by Arun DC along with the proposed Bluebird Café expansion. The ninth apartment at Southpoint in South Ferring had been approved by the Planning Inspectorate after an Appeal by the developers.

Group Meeting – 25th January 2019

Transporting the audience nearly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic to British Columbia (BC) on the west coast of Canada, Lee Morgan from Lutra Wildlife and Wilderness gave a fascinating presentation on the diverse and exciting wildlife found along this remarkable coastline. Lee, together with his partner Lindsay Janes, run professionally guided wildlife, natural history and photographic tours in this area. Their itineraries are carefully crafted to include the best locations for quality wildlife viewing away from the usual tourist hotspots.

Lee explained that BC is Canada’s most westerly province and stretches from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Rockies in the east and is the size of France and Germany combined. It has a population of around 4.5 million people and over 27,000 miles of coastline with many sheltered fjords, sprawling forests and mountainous peaks it is ideal territory for the diverse wildlife this area has to offer. It has pristine ecosystems and vast tracks of wilderness and it is along the coastline that you may catch a glimpse of an orca, pause to marvel at a moose, or simply watch eagles soar. Pacific Grey whales are regular visitors from March to October and other marine sightings may include humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions and sea otters.

Seasonal migrant birds are attracted by the abundant fish; including barrows golden eye ducks in winter and in summer pigeon guillemots, belted kingfishers and ospreys. Bald Eagle sightings coincide with the movement of salmon making their way back to their places of birth to spawn. Grizzly bears are also fond of salmon and can be spotted along the shoreline ready to help themselves to the plentiful supply. Mink may be seen hunting for crabs among the rocky outlets.

Bird watchers can appreciate the diversity of wild birds this area has to offer with a variety of songbirds, waterfowl, raptors and marine birds, from turkey vultures to species of hummingbirds.

This beautiful natural environment as portrayed by Lee makes a visit to this part of the world an attractive proposition.

After the usual break for tea and biscuits, in Tricia Hall’s absence, Graham Tuppen presented the ever popular Nature Notes. Graham advised us that unusually at this time of year roses, fuchsias, daffodils and gladiolus had been spotted in flower in the village and also a large white-tailed bumblebee. Graham asked if any of the audience had seen or heard any tawny owls and to record their findings on a weekly basis. Over the month Clive Hope had recorded sightings of many birds in the area, including guillemots, razor-bills, red breasted mergansers and gannets. Graham announced that the clean-up of the banks of the Rife will take place on Saturday 23rd March meeting at 11am in the Bluebird Café car park.

To conclude the January meeting Ed Miller gave an update on planning news in the village. He advised there had been a refusal by Arun DC of the planning application to build a house in the back garden at 4, Sea Lane, and also the 2 houses in the garden at 21, Ocean Drive. The planning application at 11, Ocean Drive to demolish a 2 bed bungalow and build a 2 bed house was still to be decided. Two new planning applications were highlighted; the proposed building of a house in the garden of Elm Lodge in Tamarisk Way and the proposed conversion of a bungalow to a four bed house in Midhurst Drive.

Group Meeting – 30th November 2018

To a record audience of over 100 members and visitors Professor Fiona Matthews from the University of Sussex and Chairman of the Mammal Society, presented an illustrated talk entitled ‘Hedgehogs and their Conservation’.

Professor Matthews explained that hedgehogs are one of our most appealing mammals but they seem to be in long-term decline in Great Britain, and there is an urgent need to shed light on where they are most scarce and where they could and should be thriving. This critical information will help conservationists understand what can be done to reverse this decline.

Using the Mammal Society’s HogWatch2019 online survey Professor Matthews encouraged members to record their hedgehog sightings and, just as importantly, where hedgehogs are no longer in evidence to give a clearer picture of the overall position and to contribute to the latest conservation research. There is also a Mammal Mapper App that can be downloaded which is an easy way to record hedgehog sightings and especially good for interested children.

Climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and changes in agricultural practice have all had a devastating effect. Road deaths are also putting pressure on the hedgehog’s survival. It is also possible that badgers, whose numbers have increased in some areas in recent years, compete for the same kind of food and it may be that they are actually feeding on hedgehogs when food becomes scarce.

The modern British garden with its extended patios, decking, and minimalist style of planting has left little to attract hedgehogs. Professor Matthews urged members to leave appropriate corners of their garden untidy with piles of leaves and twigs for bedding, and to leave small gaps under fences or gates to allow hedgehogs the freedom to move around. She emphasised the need for us to do our bit and help turn the tide for this charismatic little mammal.

As is traditional at the last meeting of the year, warm mince pies were served with the usual cup of tea and Tricia Hall followed this welcome treat with her ever popular Nature Notes. This month she introduced a delightful film entitled ‘A Few Birds around Ferring’, made around 5 years ago by her late husband Mike. With Mike’s valuable commentary the star of the film was undoubtedly a Snow Bunting that took great pleasure from preening itself with almost comical precision, as well as numerous waders, ducks and geese which made welcome appearances, including a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher.

A planning update followed to conclude the meeting with Ed Miller advising the Group that the planning application from the Andalucía Restaurant for two outside tables and chairs was refused by Arun DC. The office conversion at McIntyre’s Lane and the old Police Box conversion to a small residence were given approval. The decisions regarding the expansion of the Bluebird Café and the ninth apartment at Southpoint are due this month.

Group Meeting – 26th October 2018

At our October meeting Ralph Todd, with technical assistance from his wife Brenda, imparted his knowledge and enthusiasm for Ospreys in an illustrated talk entitled ‘Operation Osprey’. In the 1970’s Ralph and Brenda would at weekends regularly drive from the South East to Loch Garten in Scotland to act as volunteers to help protect and observe Ospreys that had chosen this beautiful and serene area in the Cairngorms to breed and raise their young. Although their accommodation consisted of only a few caravans and tents they revelled in the camaraderie this tight knit community shared (a bath in a local hotel by prior arrangement was the only luxury in those days). On a rota with fellow volunteers they recorded the activities of the Ospreys day and night and became familiar with these birds as well as other wildlife in the vicinity.

Ralph explained that Ospreys were at one time plentiful in this country but during medieval times their numbers were decimated by shooting and egg collecting, which makes the protection of these birds such an important project. The Osprey nest site at Loch Garten has been active since the 1950’s when Osprey first returned to Scotland with the nest site being continually monitored and protected by volunteers throughout the breeding season ever since 1958.

After their early retirement from the BBC World Service, Ralph and Brenda have been able to spend more time at Loch Garten which has now become the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre. They have been heartened by the advanced technology and other facilities at this site, including hi-definition CCTV which is able to give clear close up views of the birds on the nest, a new reception area, visitor centre and hide, where it is now possible to accommodate a large number of people in comfortable surroundings. Thankfully Ospreys now breed across the UK – a real conservation success story, which all started at Loch Garten.

After a break for refreshments, Ed Miller advised us that there are currently over 100 letters of objection to the proposals laid out in the planning application for the Bluebird Café expansion, with over a week to go to the deadline for comments.

Tricia Hall concluded the meeting with news of the successful walk to view Autumn Fruits at Highdown Hill and commented on the wonderful sunsets we have been fortunate to experience over the last few days. Also she reported that although late in the season she had spotted a Clouded Yellow butterfly when walking on the Village Green.

Group Meeting – 28th September 2018

Professor Dave Goulson, a biologist and conservationist from Sussex University, who has spent 25 years studying bees and is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, educated around 90 members and visitors with a talk entitled ‘Saving our Bumblebees’. Professor Goulson explained that due to large-scale changes to the way the countryside is managed there has been a major decline in bumblebees over the past century. A combination of public demand for cheap food and the mechanisation of agriculture has greatly reduced the density of the flowering plants that bumblebees feed on and left far fewer sheltered areas for them to nest. Some of our rarest species, notably the Great Yellow, now only survive in Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

The only way to boost bumblebee populations and prevent extinctions is to ensure that large areas of farmed countryside are managed sympathetically. Providing even small patches of flower-rich habitat around your garden will make a real difference. To encourage bumblebees into a garden it is important to grow flowers that are useful to bees. Some flower have petals that form long tunnels which are too narrow for bees to feed from while other flowers may not be rich enough in pollen and nectar. If you find a bee on the ground it may be cold through lack of nectar and it is possible to revive it with some sugar water.

Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes after a break for refreshments by informing the Group that around 100 Swallows and House Martins were seen passing through with some drinking from the Rife on their way, and Meadow Pipits were spotted at the Country Centre. Also nests were found in 10 of the 11 nest boxes sited around the village which makes this project worthwhile.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with the latest planning news. He advised the Group that Worthing District Council has at last published its Local Plan with Brooklands Park and the northern and southern Goring Gaps all being confirmed as protected open spaces. The detached house proposed at 55, Sea Lane had been approved but the planning application from the Andalucía restaurant for two outside tables and four chairs is still to be decided.

Group Meeting – 27th July 2018

Fran Southgate, the Living Landscapes Officer from the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), gave an enlightening presentation to Ferring Conservation Group at their recent monthly meeting entitled ‘The Shaping of Landscapes by Water’. Fran conveyed with passion SWT’s quest to greatly improve and protect the county’s wetland areas with a focus on water voles.

Fran explained that although Sussex is the second most wooded county in England it also has wetland areas (where water and land mix and meet) that have some of the richest places for wildlife. These encompass vast areas of low-lying land in places such as the Pevensey Levels and the Arun valley. A combination of good water quality and a network of sensitively managed ditches and the mosaics of wet grassland, reed and scrub mean that large areas of nature friendly wetlands continue to thrive.

This is good news indeed for the water vole that lives along rivers, streams and ditches, around ponds and lakes and in marshes, reedbeds and in areas of wet moorland. These delightful mammals are under threat from habitat loss and predation by the non-native American mink. The water vole is similar-looking to the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and a furry tail. Water voles are not easy to spot but with a little perseverance their existence can be confirmed at the side of riverbanks, often with a lawn of nibbled grass and stems with a distinctive 45 degree angled-cut at the ends, scattered around the entrance of their burrows. A female will start to breed in spring and can have three to four litters per year of up to five young.

SWT’s vision for the future is to help create living landscapes by enabling wildlife to disperse across areas to find new habitats to increase their distribution, as for many species this is an inherent survival strategy. This can be achieved by encouraging landowners to create green corridors by building grass covered bridges across waterways, planting more hedgerows to make ‘wildlife highways’ and to plant a series of copses or build ponds as stop-off points for wildlife on the move. SWT aims to reverse damage to the landscape by working with natural processes such as re-wilding land, and reverting to natural flood management.

In her regular Nature Notes slot, Tricia Hall reported that many birds and mammals appeared to be struggling locally in the recent hot and dry spell, and were keeping a low profile. However, butterflies seemed to be enjoying things more, with interesting sightings in Ferring gardens of both a Silver-washed Fritillary and a Brown Argus – neither of these are particularly rare as such, but unusual to find them in coastal gardens. The Group will be taking part in the national Big Butterfly Count organised by Butterfly Conservation, as well as organising an evening walk to the Black Rocks, just west of Ferring, on one of the very low tides. Details of all Group events can be found at

Little Egrets seem to be returning to the village in some numbers from their breeding areas, with up to 12 at a time having been seen in trees on the Ferring Rife as well as at the pond in the south of the village.

Ed Miller gave an update on planning matters, outlining that the Arun Local Plan had been approved, which includes the fact that it obliges Arun District Council to provide 1000 homes per year for the next 15 years across the Arun district. One of the more welcome aspects though is that it provides continuing protection for the local Gaps between settlements, including the Ferring section of Goring Gap. The Group is aware of intentions by Worthing Rugby Club to potentially move their operations to Goring Gap, and the Group has written to the club pointing out that this would conflict with the Local Plan policies and would attract much opposition from residents of Ferring, Goring and the surrounding area.

Group Meeting – 29th June 2018

Ted Green captivated the audience at Ferring Conservation Group’s June meeting by speaking with passion and enthusiasm about his deep knowledge and love of trees. Ted’s professional life began when he was employed as a laboratory technician at Silwood Park, attached to Imperial College, where he had access to the Ancient Woodlands on the nearby Windsor Estate. Here he could pursue his interest in conservation and so accumulating a vast knowledge by observation, experiment and plant trialling. From 1988 to 2003 Ted was the English Nature Conservation Consultant to the Crown Estate at Windsor. He continues as Conservation Consultant there to this day and has been awarded an MBE for his services, and he still works ceaselessly for the protection and greater awareness of our ancient trees.

Ted is credited with bridging any gaps between forestry and conservation and has influenced the debate in forestry and arboriculture for more than 50 years. During his long career, Ted has put forward theories on the importance of managing the whole ecosystem and he has played a major part in encouraging land owners to re-appraise the way they manage their woods and to adopt a more holistic style.

Ted was the founder member of the Ancient Tree Forum in 1993 and has also been involved with the Knepp Rewilding project since its inception in 2001.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall presented her welcome Nature Notes slot by telling members of the flora and fauna that was discovered during a recent Group visit to Shoreham Beach. They firstly looked at pioneer species such as Sea Kale, Silver Ragwort and Biting Stonecrop. They also found the blue Viper’s Bugloss, Tree Mallow, red Poppies and the pale pink Sea Daisy. The Group also had glimpses of lizards in the vegetation.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller advised us of a planning application submitted by WADARS for a cat homing unit on their site at Hangleton Lane, which Ferring Conservation Group intend to support.

Group Meeting – 25th May 2018

Jenny Watkins from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) gave a fascinating, illustrated presentation covering 30 years of Marine Mammal Rescue in the UK. BDMLR was founded in 1988 and is the only charity covering England, Wales and Scotland totally dedicated to the rescue of marine life such as whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals. They are funded entirely by donations.

Jenny explained that BDMLR has its own network of trained volunteer marine mammal medics which respond to calls regarding distressed and stranded marine wildlife 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are also called upon by the other emergency services such as HM Coastguard, Fire Brigade, Police, RSPCA and SSPCA and also train their staff.

The BDMLR use a wide range of equipment in their rescues strategically placed throughout the UK to deal with strandings of marine animals, oil spills and fishing gear entanglement. This equipment includes rescue boats, equipment trailers, whale and dolphin pontoon sets, a whale disentanglement kit and regional medic kits with essential supplies.

The BDMLR are keen to train more Marine Mammal Medics and you don’t have to be a diver as people from all walks of life are covered in their medic base. You do need to have a positive attitude and don’t mind being wet and cold and the rest is taught on their Marine Mammal Medic Course. For more information on courses please contact:

Between 1988 and 2018 BDMLR trained 20,000 volunteers and around 18,000 incidents were attended and around 90% were callouts to seals. One of the biggest problems faced is entanglement of wildlife in discarded fishing tackle.

Jenny requested that if you were to find a stranded live sea mammal then to note the place, the state of the tide, and any injuries you can see without getting close and call 01825 765546 during office hours. After 5pm on working days, or at weekends or Bank Holidays call 07787 433412 (this number does not receive texts or pictures).

Nature Notes followed a break for refreshments and this month David Bettiss enlightened us with news of more hedgehog sightings, also that a pair of Stock Doves had taken up residence in the Tawny Owl box in Little Twitten. Many Starlings had been seen locally also Dragonflies and Damselflies around the Rife, the lagoons and Highdown. Twenty wildflower plants had been planted in the Community Orchard including Primrose, Cowslips and Yellow Rattle etc. New herbs had been added to the existing herb bed on the Village Green plus five new trees were recently planted in Little Twitten and Arun DC will be adding several more later this year.

Concluding this month’s meeting Ed Miller kept us up to speed with planning news by advising us that Arun DC had approved the proposed development for 4 x 4 bedroom detached houses at 32 and 34 Sea Lane and also the proposed office block at Hangleton Lane, but the proposed petrol station at ASDA had been refused.

Group Meeting – 27th April 2018

For our April meeting we welcomed Dan Oakley, Lead Ranger from the South Downs National Park International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), known as Moore’s Reserve, who gave a fascinating presentation on this important and valuable asset.

In 2016 the South Downs National Park became the 2nd (IDSR) in England and 12th in the world. There are more than 2 million people living within 5kms of Moore’s Reserve so it is one of the most accessible in the country. To map the night sky quality 25,000 different measurements had to be made and 66 per cent of the South Downs National Park has Bronze Level Skies.

The dark skies over South East England are constantly under threat from light pollution from building development, and as a result of this 2,700 street lights have already been replaced with downward facing LED lights. Dan emphasised that much of the outside lighting used at night was inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded and also in many cases completely unnecessary. He encouraged us all to think carefully about where and how we light our properties.

Dark skies are not only good for star gazing but are also beneficial for nocturnal wildlife, helping moths and bats to thrive.

Dan had insisted that the meeting room should be made as dark as possible at the start of his presentation and cleverly demonstrated the effect of light pollution. He firstly displayed on the screen a stunning photograph of the centre of the Milky Way, he then, without warning, shone a bright torch into the room. The result being that the Milky Way disappeared from the photograph, emulating the effect of light pollution in the real world.

In future the South Downs National Park will use its role as a planning authority to protect the dark skies above the National Park as well as the landscape on the ground. Specific lighting requirements for developers to meet will be included in the Draft Policies of the Local Plan.

A short AGM took place after refreshments where a new committee member, Chris Dilks, was elected and all existing committee members were re-elected unopposed.

Tricia Hall followed with Nature Notes and reported that many butterflies had been seen such as the Brimstone, Peacock, Red Admiral, Commas and Orange Tip. Cowslips, Primroses and Celandines are in bloom in Clover Lane and on the Rife White Blackthorn blossom is evident. Around ten Wheatear had been spotted in the vicinity and a Cuckoo has been heard around the East Preston/Ferring Gap. Whitethroat and Blackcap are about and a Chiffchaff has been seen at Warren Pond along with a nesting pair of Moorhens.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller advised us that six planning applications for Ferring were due for discussion at the next Development Control Committee meeting in May. There are two new applications; one in McIntyre’s Lane for the conversion of an old silo into offices and at 78, Langbury Lane for conversion to a home for Adults with Special Needs. Ed commented that the Arun Draft Local Plan is due for consideration in early July.

Group Meeting – 23rd March 2018

We welcomed back Neil Hulme from Butterfly Conservation for a second visit, this time to take us on a seasonal journey through Sussex with a talk entitled ‘Sublime Sussex Wildlife’, highlighting the wonderful and diverse range of wildlife that we are blessed with in our county. Since his last visit to us Neil has deservedly been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his outstanding services to wildlife conservation. He has been credited with saving the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly from extinction in Sussex and has made a major contribution to saving other rare species.

In his usual informative and relaxed manner Neil illustrated his talk with many beautiful photographs. Some of these were taken by a leading wildlife photographer but many were taken by Neil himself, although he admits his camera has many limitations he was fortunate enough to be able to get very close to his subjects.

Neil explained that because of phenology i.e.; climate change and weather patterns, much wildlife could be seen a little earlier in the year than is usual. For instance the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly can be spotted around 3 weeks before its original emergence date due to its reliance on young nettles which are abundant as early as mid-February.

As we journeyed through the seasons Neil suggested ideal locations for us to visit to view wildlife, including the Norfolk Estate, Mill Hill, Cissbury Ring, Knepp Castle Estate, West Dean Woods and Harting Down, not forgetting the Rife and Beach at Ferring. It is without doubt that several landowners have played an important role in increasing numbers of threatened species; for example in 2002 the Grey Partridge faced extinction throughout Sussex and the ‘Norfolk Estate Recovery Project’ turned the situation around and increased numbers considerably and they have found a haven on the Estate. Likewise the owner of the Knepp Castle Estate developed a radically different approach by turning away from intensive farming, by using grazing animals to help establish a functioning ecosystem, where nature is given the freedom to thrive with little interference by man.

In the second half of our meeting Tricia Hall presented her Nature Notes and had brought in an abandoned nest that had been found on the ground under a conifer along the banks of the Rife. Tricia asked the audience for suggestions as to which bird had meticulously constructed it. She then made us aware of forms that were available at the back of the hall for members with ponds to take and record sightings of frogs, toads and their spawn. Tricia also advised us that a Lapwing and a Shoveler Duck had been spotted along the Rife and a flock of Golden Plover were seen in a field near the Country Centre.

Ed Miller updated us with news that the proposed ninth apartment at the former Beehive Cottage site had been refused. The four proposed houses at 44, Ferringham Lane had been approved subject to conditions. The Peugeot car dealership along the A 259 have applied to have the existing bungalow demolished, a new building for their head office and an additional showroom for a Honda car dealership. ASDA have submitted plans for a petrol station on the north east of their site and Arun DC are awaiting more details. A planning application has been submitted for 43 large storage containers to be sited at the former McIntyre’s nursery land. Ed concluded by advising us that the Arun Local Plan should be approved shortly.